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What’s In My Pack: Speed Hiker Joe McConaughy

Want to go really, really light? Take a hint from a guy who finished the Long Trail in less than 5 days.

Most thru-hikers trying to set a fastest known time try to cut their pack weight to the bare minimum, ditching everything extraneous in order to move as swiftly as possible. Almost none would stuff their backpack with rocks. But Joe “Stringbean” McConaughy had a good reason.

When McConaughy set out on June 10 on an attempt to break the self-supported speed record for Vermont’s Long Trail, he carried eight stones in his pack, each inscribed with the name of a Black victim of violence—George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery among them. The weight of those rocks, which added almost a pound to his pack, were a symbolic reminder of the systemic racism that affects Black Americans on the trail and off, as well as a reference to the 8 Can’t Wait movement for police reform.

It was McConaughy’s second attempt to set a FKT on the Long Trail, following a failed bid in 2015 and successful FKTs on the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails. But this time, not even the extra weight could hold him back, and he smashed the previous record by more than a day, finishing the trail in 4 days, 23 hours, and 54 minutes.

The Trip

The Long Trail is 273 miles long, with 65,000 feet of elevation gain. To finish in time, McConaughy hiked about 19 hours a day, averaging 54.5 miles per day. Along the way, he had to contend with mud and rough, rooty, and rocky terrain.

Continue reading the article and view Joe's gear list here.

LAST UPDATED

December 3, 2023

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